My darling daughter, your goddaughter, helped me start the blog today:
Once upon a time, there was a killer dragon in our driveway. My mom had to go to a church meeting. She had to grab a giant sword (BTW, she keeps one in her pocket) and slay the dragon. Then, off to church she went.
In this case, the dragon was the specter of over-commitment that has been hanging over me for several years, taking the form of my husband. He caught me gliding my car keys into my nag, with a vague explanation that I was just heading up to church for a quick meeting. “You’re not volunteering again, are you?”
I have been cutting back lately, but still find myself overwhelmed with commitments. Temptation raised its head when one person complimented my reading at Alex and Jack’s wedding. With that mild encouragement, I decided it was obvious that the Holy Spirit was telling me I should be a reader at our new parish. A fresh start, I thought. Undeterred by my lack of success in my attempts at catechesis, evangelization by writing, my time in stewardship, and various other non-starters in my parish life, I carefully discerned that reading might be good for me. I discovered there were few to no meetings (no tricky social interaction and fewer people to upset), a minimal time commitment, and the only required skill was being literate. Check, check, and check!
Evidently, readers have gone through several iterations, including lectors and ministers of the Word. I like “Minister of the Word,” because it sounds like a mid-level bureaucrat in some vaguely communist Eastern European country. The Minister of the Word at Mass has an important function in relation to the gathered faithful. The handbook for Ministers of the Word at one parish states: According to the General Instruction to the Roman Missal: “Lay people may be deputed to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture, people who are truly suited to carrying out this function and carefully prepared, so that by their hearing the readings from the sacred texts the faithful may conceive in their hearts a sweet and living affection for Sacred Scripture”
Enthused by my new calling, I eagerly attended my first (and only) meeting, which was reading training. The new recruits were walked through the process of checking in, processing, and given a chance at the microphone. One contradictory aspect of my personality is, that while I am incredibly shy and have terrible social anxiety, I don’t really have a fear of public speaking. And that nice man at the wedding told me I read well. Buoyed by this happy thought, I volunteered to go first. I took a deep breath, looked around, and attempted to “own the ambo,” (ambo is Catholic-speak for lectern or podium) as our trainer advised. I started in on a pretty easy passage from Jeremiah. I was almost immediately stopped by the trainer, who tsked-ed about my reading glasses and urged me to look up from the page. I started again. This time, I tried an advanced move, making swiveling eye contact around the church pews, as directed. From the back I heard “Project! Project!” I raised my voice to my teacher/meeting leader level, squeezed all the air from my diaphragm, and tried to hit the back of the house. “More – project more!” I raised it up to an 11, a volume hitherto unreached by any lector (as in This is Spinal Tap “These go to 11”). Finally, the other trainer came around and said. You know the microphone is off.” “Oh,” I replied sheepishly, “I was told not to touch it.”
Even though I have not been up at the ambo yet, I already feel I am better for this ministry. I noticed on Sunday, I paid more attention to the procession, where the reader went, and how she read. I did not at all think how much better my inflections would have been or how much more emphasis I would have given certain words. Nope. I can already tell that this job will make the Mass a deeper and more meaningful rite for me, because I will have a direct role to play. I guess we all do, really, if we are taking the Mass and our responses seriously. It can be hard for us to sustain attention at Mass week after week, without necessarily feeling like we are a part of things. I also hope that this lesson will filter through to my children when they see me up there. I can’t wait to whip a few of St. Paul’s letters at them! I am also waiting for my first moment of true humility, when I mispronounce something horribly. St. Paul did write to the Filipinos, yes?